Earthquakes ready for lengthy FIFA break

Yallop eager to give players a well-needed break after busy May slate

Justin Morrow vs. Sporting KC

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The San Jose Earthquakes weren’t able to maintain their nearly unconscious streak of late-game goals in a 2-1 defeat at Sporting Kansas City on Sunday.

But now they have nearly four weeks to rest, reload and plot the sequels to their recent run of great escapes.

With two potential US Open Cup games their only dates between now and June 20, the tired Quakes — who contested seven league matches over 30 days, in three time zones and five stadiums — finally have a chance to catch their breath and look forward to consolidating their status among the Western Conference’s front-runners.

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“I think the guys need it,” Quakes coach Frank Yallop told MLSsoccer.com by phone. After a potential USOC date on June 5, “we have a nice six- or seven-day break, so the guys can heal and get some rest that they need. I want to make sure we come out of the break with some good, rested players, and are hungry and ready to go.”

The Quakes (8-3-3) weren’t able to squeeze out a result against Sporting Kansas City, although they did show some of the same fight-back that saw them secure a win and two ties since May 13 with goals in the 88th minute or later.

After torrid first-half pressure from the hosts led to San Jose’s going down 2-0 for a second consecutive match, Simon Dawkins brought the Quakes back within a goal via a 72nd-minute strike from the edge of Sporting Kansas City’s penalty area.

“With all my heart, I thought we were going to get another one,” Quakes right back Steven Beitashour told MLSsoccer.com. “Cesar [Diaz Pizarro, San Jose’s rookie forward] came on there, tried to help us out. I think he did a good job for his first [MLS] game ever, and I think I missed him by 2 inches on the far post. I felt that we were just going to get that one. We’ve been doing it all season, never quitting.”

There was no equalizer in the cards this time, however. With forwards Chris Wondolowski (international duty) and Steven Lenhart (yellow-card accumulation) absent, Alan Gordon — who salvaged five points with his late heroics in the Quakes’ three previous matches — made his first start of the season. That’s why Gordon wasn’t on the pitch in the closing minutes, drawing one yellow card and flirting with a second before being removed by Yallop in the 61st minute.

Nevertheless, San Jose didn’t simply wave the white flag when they were down by two at halftime. Yallop said he told his players during the break that they could either fight or “shut up shop.”

“I thought our attitude was great in the second half,” Yallop said. “It’s just that when you’re two down, it’s very tough. That was the problem.”

San Jose have allowed 16 goals in their last 10 matches, and don’t have a clean sheet since March 31. On Sunday, Sporting KC flowed down either flank and delivered dangerous crosses.

On that front, the Quakes hope to welcome central defender Victor Bernardez, who’s missed eight matches with a sprained left knee ligament, back into the fold when San Jose resumes league play at Colorado.

But Yallop also knows that guys such as Beitashour and fellow third-year defender Justin Morrow — the only two Quakes field players to see every minute of action so far this season —will be helped by a little downtime.

“I’m going to get a couple [massages],” Beitashour said. “We’ll rest the bodies a little bit, regroup and make another run at it.”

Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at sanjosequakes@gmail.com.